1.09.2006

Confessions of a Hollywood Misanthrope

I have a public confession to make and hopefully it’s more interesting than the rest of my public confessions. I don’t go to the movies very often.

Summer's out completely, since I don’t care for comic books, computer games or natural disasters. Though I am a fan of classic sitcoms, they don’t seem to translate well to features even after Jessica Simpson has worked so very hard on her big screenworthy ass.

I don’t enjoy cartoons, no matter how “inspired” and “life-like.”

I’ve never seen a film with the word “man,” in the title, whether Bat, Super or Spider.
Re-makes of gritty foreign films and timeless classics range between rather superfluous and downright insulting, even with that lame "improved technology" argument.

I haven't seen a horror movie since they showed The Shining one Halloween in college. Since then I've seen those blasted twins every time I walk down a hotel corridor.

I couldn’t really follow Gladiator; and didn’t get the one with all those gay English guys on the 18th century boat. I neither saw Armageddon, Men in Black nor Independence Day—nor any of the Harry Potters, Mission Impossibles, or Jurassic Parks. Though Titanic is an all-time favorite, I’d definitely skip Titanic 2: The Revenge. The last Star Wars I went to was the first one. And God help me, I believe the first Godfather says it all.

You’re probably asking yourself why it is I want to be a screenwriter. The obvious answer is the poor bastards need me. Before they started making movies for kids grown-ups might be able to stomach, the good movies were the ones your parents wouldn’t let you watch. When I was little you could keep your Bugsy Malone, I had to see Annie Hall—which my mother decided was a drug movie after reviewing the famous cocaine sneeze. American Graffiti was about gangs and The Sting glorified a couple of petty criminals. Hot damn, I was in—even if it meant sneaking through the side door after being dropped off to see Jodie Foster in the original Freaky Friday.

I’ve been equally inspired by only a handful of movies made after I grew up. Thelma & Louise, Muriel’s Wedding, Cinema Paradiso, Billy Elliott, and Sideways come immediately to mind. I like stories about people—girls, even—and yeah, I’m prepared to read the subtitles. Hardly an art house junkie, I freely admit to enjoying fun but forgettable fare like The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Wedding Crashers and Elf—all original scripts rather than re-makes, sequels or adaptations, it’s worth noting—as much as Mad Hot Ballroom and Whale Rider.

It's mostly getting to the theater that presents such a problem. Since I have less interest in long lines, subterranean parking lots and shopping malls than I do in interplanetary warfare, it’s a real strain come wintertime to see the big Oscar contenders they insist on releasing over a three-day period. My theater of choice is the Arclight, where there aren’t a whole lot of people around—worth the fourteen-dollar ticket in and of itself.

Maybe the real reason I want to write movies is I actually prefer my humanity at a safe distance, up there on the big screen where it belongs. Where everybody seems so much larger than the rest of us, more important, more Robert Redford in his prime. Speaking of my original imaginary boyfriend, the day they re-make Jeremiah Johnson starring Ashton Kutcher, so help me, I’ll give it all up to go to work at the Umatilla Home Depot.

19 comments:

  1. Bugsy Malone was the cinematic equivalent of The Godfather to me when I was six. And though I had seen Annie Hall, I was outraged when it knocked off Star Wars for best picture in 1977. Obviously, that was the right call.

    Word Verification: zhehnnuq

    This is getting harder than Spellbound

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  2. I would suggest Family Stone. I know Sarah Jessica Parker, but forget about her and go for the writing and direction. If you don't like this movie I'll eat my hat.

    Rob

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  3. I don't want anyone to eat hats but I thought Family Stone was pretty bad. Elements of a good RomCom, elements of a good family drama but no focus as to which it really wanted to be. And half the movie on the less interesting SJP story and the other half crammed full of the subplots that could have unfurled more evenly earlier on. Ambitious in its humanity (laughing and crying!) I grant you and I applaud that but I'm not sure I'd bet a hat in my tummy on it.

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  4. My manager actually sold this script, which was originally called "Fucking Hate Her." I've not yet seen the film but it is often compared to my hilarious funeral comedy, so I am most interested. Maybe tomorrow, though it's not at the Arclight. This is a very big step for me.

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  5. I'm sure this reveals something horrible about me, but I watched "In Her Shoes" on the flight to LA last night, and it was actually pretty damn good.

    A bit of pollen actually flew into my eye at the ending, causing it to look like I was crying. Which of course I wasn't.

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  6. So, you're an Indie girl. Who'd have thunk it? I loved Bugsy Malone as a kid and then saw it again last year. Really disturbing. 9-year-old molls are probably not a good idea.

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  7. They were only nine? They seemed so much older and more worldly. Twelve maybe.

    Hey, Jeff. Welcome home.

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  8. Jeff, I'm sure Jennifer Weiner would like to know that. In her blog, she wonders why audiences didn't embrace the film version of her book.

    http://jenniferweiner.blogspot.com/2006/01/in-her-shoes-movie-has-shown-up-on.html

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  9. I guess I'm lucky to be easily amused. I like lots of those "man" movies.

    I liked Bugsy Malone, wished that I could find it at Blockbuster to show my kids.

    gwqwk: god what quick work

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  10. Anonymous6:16 AM

    I must have grown up in a different household because the only movie I can remember your parents not letting me watch as a kid was "Jaws" so as not to scare the bejesus out of me when entering the water.

    Kept me out of the Topanga plaza theater but not the water.

    Then there was the Antocol/Rubenstein Baja road trip home video movie circa 1975, "Blazing Saddles" and "Deep Throat" but those were more along the lines of the David Bowie concert ban.

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  11. Anonymous12:37 PM

    You know, I also remember a shroud of secrecy surrounding the Antocol/Rubenstein Baja road trip video. Knowing what I know now, I am sure it was worth shrouding! I remember Rubinstein was the first person I knew with a video camera and that it involved a camera and a separate huge recorder apparatus that he had to sling over his shoulder.

    Now that JGTH made me hep to the whole Interenet search-by-name thing, I am concerned that these last two entries are going to crop up every time someone Googles certain high powered attorneys or real estate developers. That is why I will refrain from using names with respect to other family member's videos involving Central American ladies of the evening and partial Vegas nudity.

    As for the Bowie concert ban, I remain scarred but still a fan. That concert ban correlates in my mind with the ban on unchaperoned grunion hunts where, Dad assured me leeringly, my girlfriends would be certain to "catch a couple of grunion." Hmm. Actually, thirty years later, I am still not sure what that means.

    But I do know that my first concert experience ended up being the Righteous Brothers at the Greek Theater with Mr. & Mrs. Thomas. Any surprise that my career as a head banger was nipped in the bud? No wonder I am the Type A sister!

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  12. That's a lot of films you know of that you haven't watched. I've watched nearly all the ones you mentioned, plus the few that you have watched - guess I'm just not as fussy with my movies. Never watched "Rain Man"? It's not a superhero film, honest! :)

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  13. Dddragon, you should re-watch it yourself first.

    By the way, Julie, Misanthrope is the single greatest title a person can claim in my judgement. It shows good taste.

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  14. Thanks, now I don't feel so bad about not hitting the theatres. Actually, poverty has a lot to do with that. But I always felt like a tool coming out here wanting to act and write, and then not plopping down my $14 at the Arclight on a semi-regular basis.

    I think the biggest film impact on me was Cinema Paradiso, which I saw in a Religion in Cinema course on Semester at Sea. That one class taught me more about the writing side than any other I've taken, or any screenwriting book I've read. And I dig the three hour version as well, pretty amazing how different the two are.

    Hope you'll amend your sequel rule for Pirates of the Caribbean 2. I hear there's a pretty hot pirate on board. :)

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  15. Weenie, to clarify I didn't say the few I mentioned were the only films I've watched. I said they were the only ones I could think of that had been equally inspiring as those I'd bee forbidden to see (but did) as a child. Rain Man was quite good, as I recall, just didn't rock my world. (Not a big fan of the Tommeister. Something not quite right there).

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  16. Hey Julie! Thanks for playing along with the meme, over at Wildwoods! :-) Like the answers.

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  17. For those who don't know what FJ is talking about, bloggers tag each other with quizzes related to their common interests, and he recently sent one around related to screenwriting.

    Both Wildwoods and Chris Soth tagged me, but I'll post my answers here too.

    ONE (1) earliest film-related memory: Raisinets. Wherein the lowly lunchbox raisin took on a whole new meaning.

    TWO (2) favorite lines from movies: “I’ll have what she’s having.”–When Harry Met Sally “Don’t fuck with me, fellas. This ain’t my first time at the rodeo.”–Mommie Dearest

    THREE (3) jobs you’d do if you could not work in the “biz”. 1. Wedding Planner 2. Florist 3. Vintner

    FOUR (4) jobs you actually have held outside the industry: 1. Travel writer 2. Advertising copywriter 3. College professor 4. Police records clerk

    THREE (3) book authors I like: 1. John Irving 2. Charles Dickens 3. Mark Twain

    TWO (2) movies you’d like to remake or properties you’d like to adapt: 1. Cathy (the comic strip) 2. My blog, starring Drew Barrymore in the role of moi.

    ONE (1) screenwriter you think is underrated: 1. Females

    THREE (3) people I’m tagging to answer this meme next: Steven Spielberg, Tomkat, Brangelina

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  18. I agree about Annie Hall whole heartedly (best comedy ever made), but my childhood cinematic experiences were totally different from yours. My parents, rather than escorting me to Disney fare, dragged me along to whatever movie they wanted to see. I saw French Connection in elementary school, Last Tango in Paris before I wore a bra. I didn't get the butter part until I saw it again at a Columbia film class.

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